It’s so dark in the bedroom that he can’t tell blanket from baby, but he peers into the crib until his eyes adjust. Moment by moment, the slatted lines of moonlight across the bed provide just enough light to see six pounds of baby girl lying half under the cover. Her face turns up to his, but her eyes are closed, her short, dark hair slicked against her pinkish, moonlit skin.
He leans against the edge of the crib, careful not to hit the latch of the drop-down, and stares at that face that doesn’t stare back at him. Her lips work an invisible nipple, and her chest moves up and down so slowly that it takes all of his concentration to see it.
Then it stops.
He leans over the rail of the crib and looks closer, willing his pupils to open wider, praying the clouds move away from the moon enough to brighten the slatted lines of light so he can see her better.
She’s fine. Must be. Seconds go by and no movement, no twitch of the hand or foot, no wrinkle in the brow or pursing of the mouth, no chest moving up and down.
She’s fine. Go back to bed. Even his thoughts feel loud in that quietest of rooms. He focuses his ears on her nose, listening for the slightest sound of breath escaping, focuses his gaze on a single strip of light crossing her chest to see if there’s any movement.
His own breath holds, his heart stops, his muscles freeze, and every cell fixates on that strip of light, that unmoving chest. He leans closer, looks closer.
It’s as if he is completely still, and at the same time, falling very slowly into that crib, into those blankets, into that serene face and little chest that just won’t move enough for him to be sure, for him to be sure enough to go back to bed. And he doesn’t want to go back to bed. He wants to fall into that crib, into that serenity.
With such subtle movement, his hand lowers towards that unmoving chest. It comes to rest so softly on her that he isn’t sure he is actually touching her until she flinches, her eyelids wrinkled into a scowl like the blinds on the window with the slits of moonlight shining through.
She cries with her mouth open wide and her eyes still shut. Her arms flail as he slides his hand around her midsection, slips his other hand under her head, and pulls her into his arms. Eyes still focused on her face and her chest, he steps back and slowly lowers into the chair by the crib. He pulls her to his chest and the lines of moonlight stripe both of their faces. She falls into him and he falls into her and the room is silent again.